WINNER: The Oregonian/OregonLive, OPB and ProPublica
“The Cutting: Investigating Industrial Logging in Oregon”
Journalists: Rob Davis, Tony Schick and Lylla Younes
Judges Citation: It’s one of those truisms that turned out not to be true: For decades, politicians, timber executives and loggers made the northern spotted owl the “poster bird” for the decline of the lumber business — and therefore, the destruction of the economies of Oregon’s small towns. Repetition became acceptance of the narrative that federal government overreach, elite urban environmentalists and the Endangered Species Act conspired to wound Oregon’s most important industry and the livelihoods of the people who depended on it.
“The Cutting,” an eye-opening investigation by the Oregonian/Oregon Live, Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica turns this truism on its head. An examination of three decades of tax and logging records, as well as digital engagement with more than 600 Oregonians, allowed journalists Rob Davis, Tony Schick and Lylla Younes to uncover a startling fact: Tax cuts granted to Wall Street-controlled private forests cost many rural counties far more money than the reduction of logging on federal land. In other words, private logging is booming — but it doesn’t pay the bills.
The investigation caused an outcry in Oregon, and lawmakers are re-examining forest and tax policies as a result. Twenty-eight bills were filed in the legislature, including those to restore timber tax revenue to local communities. The results are yet to come, but this accessible story, illustrated with understandable graphics and strong photography, makes the problems clear. As one Oregonian is memorably quoted: “Holy cannoli. The old adage that ‘what is good for the timber industry is good for Oregon’ is no longer true.”